By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Milton H. Holstein worked in a pipe fitter's hell.
He was exposed to every asbestos-lined pipe carrying every hazardous chemical in every building at the uranium plant during his 31 years at Fernald.
"There wasn't a ditch I didn't crawl in or a dead fish I didn't step over," the 85-year-old Hamilton man says. "There must have been 300 pipe fitters come and go in my time. It killed some of them.''
It nearly killed Holstein.
Diagnosed with colon cancer in 1968, Holstein had emergency surgery that saved his life. Then he went back to work.
Today, Holstein is in relatively good health, but spends $200 monthly on medications that help him control his bladder and breathing. This month, his doctor asked him a chilling question: Did he ever work with asbestos?
"I used to eat it," he says. "All the pipe fitters did."
It's been two years since Holstein filed his compensation claims with the federal government, and he's still waiting to hear if he'll get any money.
Holstein can't quite criticize his government. A World War II veteran, Holstein rushed Omaha Beach in France two weeks after D-Day. He took his job at Fernald with pride. Holstein represented the pipe fitters union for many years in its grievances against National Lead of Ohio, the company running Fernald.
"The stuff we were making were war materials, and the country had to have it," he says.
"The company would never admit they were wrong. They would look right at us, red as beets because they were lying. And they would just keep on lying. All we could do is shake our heads and walk out."
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